Bill changes will block reunification of refugee families, group claims

Bill could result in significantly fewer than 20,000 refugees coming to State, group says

The Eglinton Hostel direct provision centre in Salthill, Galway. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Eglinton Hostel direct provision centre in Salthill, Galway. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The number of people coming to Ireland as a result of the refugee crisis could be significantly less than the 20,000 that has been suggested, because of restrictions to the law on family reunification going through the Oireachtas, according to immigrant support group Nasc.

The Government has said it will be taking in approximately 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers as Ireland’s contribution to the European refugee crisis, and it has been estimated that, with family reunification, this is likely to eventually result in 20,000 people coming here.

However, Fiona Finn, chief executive of the Cork-based immigrant support organisation Nasc, and a member of the McMahon working group on the asylum system, said the number of people who come here under the family reunification rules will be “significantly less” than has been presumed because of measures contained in the International Protection Bill.

More restrictive

She said the proposed new regime will be significantly more restrictive than the one currently in operation when it comes to family reunification.

Under the current system, adults granted asylum can be joined by their spouses and their children under 18, and can apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality for dependent family members, be they parents, siblings or other family members, to be allowed join them here. The decision is at the discretion of the Minister.

Nasc solicitor Fiona Hurley said refugee families were typically not classic nuclear families and that the current regime allowed for applications to have wards, grandparents and siblings come to Ireland. “All that will be gone,” she said.

Under the proposed new regime, only spouses and civil partners who are married at time of the asylum application, and their children under the age of 18, can come here under reunification rules, Ms Finn said.

Reunification

Currently, people in established relationships that have not been formalised can make a case for reunification. Also, refugees here often travel to third countries to marry partners, and then make the reunification application. Nasc is concerned the new rules will lead to families breaking up.

Ms Finn also said same-sex couples will have to be be in civil partnerships if one partner is to seek reunification with another, yet many will have fled persecution in states with laws that criminalise homosexuality rather than provide for same-sex partnerships .

The Bill aims to reduce the complexity of the asylum application system here, so as to reduce the amount of time people spend awaiting a decision.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality said that in drafting new family reunification rules, reference was made to the EU Council directive that provides for family reunification.